Italy to sign MoU with China to officially support Beijing's massive Belt and Road Initiative

File photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photograph:( Agencia EFE )

AFP Rome, Italy Mar 11, 2019, 09.26 PM (IST)

Italy will sign a memorandum of understanding with China to officially support Beijing's massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs said Monday.

The signing will take place during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Rome on March 20, and will make Italy the first G7 nation to join the so-called "New Silk Road" project, Manlio Di Stefano told La Stampa daily.

Xi Jinping "will meet the head of government and the President of the Republic. There will be economic meetings since he will be accompanied by a team of entrepreneurs, and a memorandum of understanding will be signed," he said.

However, the "memorandum is not binding", he said in a bid to quell concern in the United States and other Western countries that the ambitious infrastructure project could be a Trojan horse for Chinese expansion.

"It does not have the status of an international agreement", he added.

Neither, he said, does it concern the telecoms sector, access to which critics fear could allow China to create "backdoors" that could allow Beijing to spy on countries.

Story highlights

The signing will take place during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Rome on March 20, and will make Italy the first G7 nation to join the so-called 'New Silk Road' project, Manlio Di Stefano told La Stampa daily.